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Business Trip or “Trick or Treat” for Adults? How to Get the Most Out of a Convention

Article Highlights:

  • A convention can lead to improved business results down the road.
  • Here are tips to get the most out of attending a convention like NADA.

A few months ago I asked a dealer: “Are you going to the NADA Convention?”

“Heck no,” he answered. “Those conventions are just ‘trick or treat’ for adults.”

We both got a laugh, but it also made me think.

I’ve been to dozens of trade shows, and I know what he’s talking about. Some people go to conventions just to have a good time and collect free goodies (or giveaways). But I don’t think that’s true of all the attendees. Many people go with very specific goals in mind and the expectation that the trip will lead to improved business results down the road.

If you’re going to the NADA convention this week, or if you ever plan to attend a convention in the future, here are some tips to get the most out of your trip:

Before the Show:

  1. Write down your goals. You know your business and the areas you’d like to see improvement in. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re there to research. And if you’re going on behalf of your organization, know what information your boss wants you to bring back.
  2. Check the conference schedule and exhibitors list. Decide ahead of time which sessions you want to attend and which vendors you want to speak with. Be ready with your questions and take notes.
  3. Make appointments with the exhibitors you really want to meet with. For example, to make an appointment in the Reynolds booth, contact your account manager, email marketing@reyrey.com or call 800.767.7879.
  4. Pack comfortable shoes. You’ll be on your feet all day, sometimes for several days.
  5. Bring snacks. The last thing you want is to get stuck in a business discussion while your stomach is empty. Pack a few snacks you can carry with you.

During the Show:

  1. Check bags and coats. So you don’t have to drag them around with you for the entire day.
  2. Carry a pen and paper or tablet with you at all times. You’ll be talking with a lot of people and taking lots of notes. You’ll have a much better chance at remembering what you learned if your notes are on a notepad or tablet, instead of scribbled on a napkin, the back of a product flyer, or in the margin of your convention schedule.
  3. Stick to the plan. Your pre-show planning will help you visit all the sessions you want to attend and the exhibitors you came to see. If you stray too much from your schedule, you won’t get it all done.
  4. Look for networking opportunities. Try to meet new people while you’re at the event, especially employees from other dealerships who have similar roles to yours. Ask them about their process, what has worked for them, and what they’d like to do better. This is one of the best ways to get new ideas for improvement at your own dealership.
  5. Have information emailed whenever practical. Rather than asking for a lot of literature at a vendor’s booth, have them send it to you via email whenever possible. That way you won’t have to carry it back with you.

After the show:

  1. Schedule a rest day if you need to. Conventions can be exhausting. If you’re able to schedule a day to rest after the show, don’t hesitate to do so. Use this day to review and organize your notes before you go back to the chaos in the store.
  2. Debrief with the people who went to the show with you the first day back in the office. Talk about what you learned, key takeaways, and the ideas you’d like to pursue at your own dealership. Do it quickly to not lose momentum and excitement.
  3. Share new ideas with coworkers and your boss. Share the best information from the show with anyone who didn’t go with you, especially your boss.
  4. Follow up with people you met. The people you meet at conventions can become great friends and business partners down the road, but only if you take the time to develop the relationships. Take some time to send a note to the people you’d like to stay in touch with.
  5. Plan your next steps. Try to decide quickly which vendors you’d like to speak with further and which ones aren’t going to be on your list. Try to get some additional hands-on experience with the solutions you’re most interested in, and take employees and coworkers with you when you do. Reynolds offers regional road shows and remote meetings via webcam that are perfect for this. Check out www.reyrey.com/roadshow or www.reyrey.com/engage to learn more.


If you’re headed to San Francisco this week, be sure to stop by and say “trick or treat” to me! I’ll be with the Reynolds team, proudly showing our solutions (and handing out water).

Even if you’re not going to the NADA convention this year, you’ll surely find yourself at a convention or conference at some point. When you do, these tips should help you make the most of it.

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Sarah Seaton was a Senior Manager for Brand Marketing at Reynolds and Reynolds.

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